Connecting with Your Church Members Outside of Social Media
Socially media can be a powerful tool for churches. Not only does it help them stay connected with current members, but it also allows them to reach a wider audience. Currently, 72% of US residents use social media in some capacity. Not counting YouTube, Facebook is the most popular platform with 68% of the population having an active profile.
Churches have come to rely on Facebook for a number of actions including organizing events, creating private groups, and even streaming live video. With many churches unable to gather in person throughout 2020, it became increasingly common to broadcast live sermons, discussion groups, worship sets, and more across Facebook.
Of course, Facebook is far from the only social media platform used by churches. Instagram provides a great space for sharing moments and memories with style. Twitter allows you to join in on current trends and dialogues. Snapchat can help churches reach younger audiences with bite sized content and behind the scenes happenings.
But even as churches are actively engaging with these platforms, there are growing concerns regarding social media.
In this article:
Social Media: A Growing Dilemma
Experts have been asking for over a decade whether we’re becoming too reliant on social media. The average person spends over two hours per day on social media. Most people check it at least 10 times a day. For some, it’s a nonstop compulsion. It doesn’t just cause people to spend away their personal time but their work time as well. It’s estimated that over 13% of work productivity is lost due to social media.
Meanwhile, studies have continued to show that overuse of social media has negative effects on mental health. It can increase feelings of depression, anxiety, and loneliness, and it may even lead to self-harm. These surges in negative emotions, along with the false stimulations that come with getting likes and comments are affecting our very identities as people try to emulate and appeal to those around them.
It’s easy to see how this contributes to the growing political divide in America. Though social media theoretically could provide space for discussion and debate, common ground is typically not found. 77% of people who enter into political debate online find they have less in common with those than they disagree with. This results in them becoming more deeply rooted with other likeminded people rather than growing or challenging their own perceptions.
If there is one common ground on social media, it is mistrust. 59% of US adults don’t trust news on social media. Social media has been linked to the spreading of false information, while allowing for organizations to communicate and coordinate harmful actions. Though Facebook and Twitter have increased steps towards flagging posts and deleted accounts, these actions are often seen as censorship and bias.
The release of Netflix’s The Social Dilemma this past year acted as a tipping point for some, pushing them to deactivate or delete their social media profiles altogether. Even before this, as many as 34% of Gen-Zers had left social media over concerns and a lack of interest.
All this to say, churches not only need to be mindful of what they share on social media, but how much they rely on it. At least a quarter of the population doesn’t have any social media, and they still need to be reached with the gospel and kept in the loop with what your church is doing. It is critical that you are using other avenues to share and communicate everything that you are putting on social media.
That’s not to say your church shouldn’t be active on social media. If anything, with all of the negativity and division that comes with social media, churches need to be present on there. It provides with an opportunity fill people’s timelines and feeds with hope, love, and grace. It allows for your members to share what you’re doing, and it provides a little intimidating entry point for newcomers who are interested in your church.
Social media can be a great supplementary tool for your church, but it should never be a requirement to get the full experience of your church. After all, there is still over a quarter of the population that doesn’t have any social media accounts. You should also be utilizing other methods to get your message out and connect with both believers and non-believers.
Alternatives to Social Media
Even without social media, churches have more ways to connect with people than ever. For special announcements and/or targeted outreaches, there are still traditional options like physical mailers (which can still be quite effective). But when it comes to ongoing communication and connection points, you need something that’s simple, fast, and affordable.
This makes email and text messaging two of the best options available. Both of these avenues provide a wider reach than social media, and they can provide unique advantages when used correctly.
Using Email for Church Communication
Despite its age, email remains one of the most powerful and effective forms of communication on the internet. 91% of people check their email at least once a day, and 58% check their email before they check social media. Additionally, 61% of people prefer to be contacted by brands and organizations through email.
Before you start sending emails, however, you should establish a little structure. We definitely recommend using an email marketing platform to organize your records, send out communication, and track effectiveness. Manually storing emails in spreadsheets or address books and emailing people one-by-one overly complicated and incredibly time consuming.
Thankfully, there are a number of options out there when it comes to email services. In our experience, Mailchimp is one of the best options for most situations. They offer a powerful set of features, yet their interface is easy to learn and understand. Also, because they’re one of the most popular email platforms out there, your account can be integrated with virtually any type of website or contact form.
Our Torrch websites can easily be connected to a MailChimp account, allowing you to effortlessly collect and store information from visitors. Click here to learn more.
With Mailchimp, you can gather email addresses, sort them through multiple lists or segments, create and send beautiful emails, set-up automatic responders, schedule out automated emails, and more. Best of all, their initial plan is free!
While the free plan doesn’t include some of the more advanced features, it allows you to keep up to 2000 contacts, integrate your email subscriptions with your website, and send as many emails as you need to. It’s a perfect starting point to test the waters and see what it can do for your church.
Of course, Mailchimp isn’t the only option. Constant Contact, ConvertKit, and AWeber are popular alternatives that are also worth exploring.
Before you can start sending emails, however, you’ll need to capture email addresses. Adding virtual connect cards to your website is a fantastic way to do that. Westwood Community Church has a great example on their website here.
In addition to connect forms, any other contact form you have on your website should be integrated with whatever email platform you are using. That way, when someone reaches out to you, they’re automatically in the loop for future communication. It’s never a bad idea to first ask for permission to send this information. It’s simple to do, and it can increase open rates and continued subscriptions. Just add a checkbox at the end of your form.
You can see an example from Discovery Church in Colorado here.
Once you have your systems in place, email communication can allow you to make announcements, share encouragement, highlight events, communicate changes/updates, and more. You don’t want to overwhelm people’s inboxes. That’s why it’s best to allow people to choose what emails they do and do not want to receive.
Looking back at Discovery Church’s example, you can see how easily this can be done.
Text Communication for Churches
It’s probably not surprising that 96% of Americans have a cellphone of some kind. That means phone calls and text messages are arguably the most powerful form of communication available to churches. While one-on-one phone calls can be difficult to coordinate, scale, and monitor, text messaging allows you to quickly send messages to numerous people simultaneously. They can then read these messages at their own convenience.
The question, does text-based communication and marketing work? It certainly can.
Text message marketing boasts much higher open rates compared to email marketing. On average, 98% of text messages are opened. Not only are they more likely to be opened, but they’ll probably be opened right away. 90% of text messages are read within 3 minutes of receiving them. With text messaging, you can also likely avoid the pitfalls of email such as messages being lost in spam filters, non-priority folders, etc.
Of course, there are some things to be aware of when it comes to text communication.
People tend to be more protective of their text inbox than their email inbox. It’s crucial that you get expressed permission to send a person text messages. Even after that, there are some limitations to what you can do. Text messages give you a much smaller space to work within. Also, despite the high open rate, they’re easy to read and forget about.
The act of checking an email is more intentional, whereas checking a text message has become reactional more many. Still, texting can be a very effective way to send out mass communication, as well as communicating directly with someone directly.
When it comes to large-scale and automated texting, Clearstream is one of the most popular text messaging tools for churches. Clearstream provides a simple way for first-time guests and online viewers to reach out and get connected. This is done by sending a keyword such as “join” to a shortened number. With different keywords, you can manage actions such as tithing, lifegroup sign up, and more. Additionally, Clearstream allows you to send out important messages, event updates, volunteer schedules, and more.
Clearstream starts at $29 per month, which allows you to send 1250 messages. There are no contracts or setups fees, so you can cancel at any time. It can also be integrated with tools such as Mailchimp.
“Clearstream has been the answer to our dilemma,” says Pastor Jim Boer of Monroe Community Church. “We are now able to easily connect and communicate with our Sunday community.”
Tithe.ly is a program with similar features for text-based communication. Though Tithe.ly places an emphasis on their online giving functionality, they also offer a messaging add-on for $5/month (plus some additional fees depending on the volume of texts sent).
Meeting People Where They’re At
Clear, timely communication is critical to keeping your church body connected. We live in a time where people are very caught up with their own schedules. There’s a lot of noise to get through to be heard. You can’t just assume that everyone knows what’s going on because you posted a status on Facebook or relayed details in service announcements.
You need to reach each person directly, and you need to do it in a way that works for them. Social media is a great outlet to reach a lot of people, but it won’t work for everyone. Some might prefer to receive emails. Others might opt for text messages. By letting them decide, you lower the bar of entry and greatly increase the chances of making healthy, long lasting connections.
Ultimately, you help people grow in their walk with Christ while strengthening the church body. Whatever tools and platforms you use, the mission never changes. We are called to preach the gospel to the ends of the earth. With today’s technology, that mission is more feasible than ever.
A New Way to Communicate with Members and Seekers
We are currently building the next generation of Torrch. This platform is designed specifically to help churches better connect with current members, as well as those looking for a church home. In addition to providing user-friendly tools for organizing volunteer opportunities, ministry, and paid work within the Church body, Torrch will allow people engage in a secure, online chat with church staff.
These are just a few of the features that Torrch has to offer. If you’d like to be kept in the loop on the future news and updates, please fill out the fields below.